I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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Unique content

Do you have the time or inclination to read the same information presented the same way over and over?

I’m pretty sure your answer is no – when we want to find something out we don’t want to read the same article we found last week. In itself, that’s enough reason to provide unique content on your website, in your blog and so on.

Unique content that is obviously yours (not just a PLR article copied across, an RSS feed or worst of all plagiarism) shows your knowledge, your generosity in sharing information and helps your search engine results. People will learn to visit your site/blog/newsletter for a fresh perspective on relevant topics; many copied articles and they have no real reason to bookmark you rather than the others posting the same writing.

Private Lable Rights (PLR) articles can be useful for filling a site quickly but they are not truly showcasing you or your business. Some people edit their PLR articles to make them a bit different to others’ versions of the articles, which is useful, but if you are going to so much effort why not just write your own to start with? Or get someone else to write it for you (given the editing time you may be surprised at which is cheaper in the long run).

When you do use PLR articles (edited or not), add something to it. For example, if the article is on travel insurance and you cancelled a holiday last year, add in a story about how travel insurance saved you $1,000. It will personalise the article, build your credibility and offer something new.

Likewise, openly using other people’s articles can be a valuable addition to your own content, but it works best when you introduce it appropriately to make it relevant.

What success have you had with PLR articles? Did you make them ‘yours’ before using them or not?

Short and sweet

Do you remember writing essays at school where you had to make up content to fill the required word count? Do you prefer to read a long book over a short one?

In business and website writing, the clichés ‘short and sweet’ and ‘less is best’ are better options than writing a lot for the sake of writing.

Why keep text short?

Lots of pages are flicked not read

Long documents intimidate

  • people are busy and want to get the information fast
  • it tends to be clearer and simpler
  • it looks less intimidating so more inviting to read
  • it is easier and quicker to proof read!

Keeping it short means short words, short sentences, short paragraphs and short result.

So ‘about’ instead of ‘in respect of’; ‘Accountants advise businesses’ rather than ‘business get advice and recommendations from people experienced with accounting’; and ‘stocktake sale’ rather than ‘reduced prices at the end of season to reduce our stock levels’.

Of course, short in the extreme is not the answer either. I use the idea of ‘if it can be done with fewer words, then do it’ rather than making everything short.

When keeping text short, remember

  • it must make sense
  • all critical information must be included
  • keep it easy to read and suited to your audience (for example, ‘because’ is actually longer than ‘due to’ but is used more commonly in speech so is often the better choice)
  • avoid jargon your readers won’t know

Newsletter subscribers

How often do you look at or work on your newsletter subscriber list?

How often do you think people should review such lists?

The frequency of sending emails obviously affects those answers, as does how you send emails out (some email software/services will do some of the checking for you).

When reviewing subscriber lists, here are some things to look for:

  • if you get any requests to be unsubscribed, do so immediately – certainly before sending the next email. Having this step automated is great for you and subscribers
  • any emails that repeatedly bounce (i.e. keep being sent back to you because they can’t be delivered) need to be removed form your list. Yes, you could keep them on the list so it appears bigger, but there are some good reasons to delete them
    • you will probably get bounce emails every time you send an email – why cause more email clutter for yourself?
    • ISPs actually track the proportion of bounced emails you send out – if you keep sending a lot of bouncing emails, they will block your newsletters
  • monitor the turnover of your list, not just the size. For example, if you have 100 subscribers in January and February it looks great but if 50 subscribed in February it means that half your January subscribers unsubscribed which is not so great
  • if you have stats available, monitor how many are being read, forwarded and so on
  • look at how your list is broken down by whatever information you have available – male vs female, states or countries, html vs plain text, etc

And remember to never subscribe anyone without their permission – it is just bad manners as well as risking your reputation.

Newsletter spam and advertisers

If you send out a newsletter, or other email marketing materials, one of the biggest issues you face is getting the message through spam and related filters.

As well as choosing your words carefully to avoid being classed as spam, you also need to watch what advertising you add to your newsletter.

Setting rules on the type of advertising you accept is a different topic, but it is also important to check what words any advertisers use – you don’t want to put time into adjusting your words just to have many spam triggers in ads. Ensure your advertisers understand you have editorial control over their ads, although major changes need their approval.

Apparently you also need to be aware of how your advertisers are viewed online. That is, if you include an advertiser’s URL that has been blacklisted by ISPs for sending spam, your newsletter could also be filtered out.

Some sites that help identify blacklisted email senders are:

MX Toolbox (based on server IP addresses)
Abusive hosts blocking list(based on host name or IP address)
DNS Stuff (based on DNS servers – not free)
Black List Monitoring (based on IP address)

* I don’t know that these are the best, but if they help you avoid being blacklisted (or recover from being blacklisted) they may be worth a try!

Maximising topics

Last week, I aprticipated in Blog Action Day(BAD09) with over 13,000 other bloggers – we all posted on the topic of climate change in order to make everyone aware of this important topic.

While everyone wrote about climate change as the theme, there were many different angles covered – for example, I listed green decisions for my business to inspire other businesses to fight climate change and I read posts about conserving water, marketing, using local foods, some affects of climate change (affects on western society caused by direct climate changes) and things we can do to stop climate change.

This made me think about using a limited topic can provide many blog posts and/or articles – as well as about climate change of course!

Even if you limited yourself to business related aspects of climate change, there were many different ways you could have participated in BAD09. Here are just some of the business angles to show what I mean:

  • tips of how to reduce a business’ impact around the office
  • discussion of how manufacturing businesses can reduce their emissions
  • discussion of how business can contribute to the solution
  • opinions on carbon pricing and how it will impact small businesses
  • list some business ideas that will help the planet
  • low impact marketing ideas
  • how climate change has impacted on a particular business or industry – or is likely to in the next decade or half century
  • discussion on political and social factors affecting how a business can implement greener processes

So next time you are looking for something to write about to promote your business, look back at old or obvious topics within your business and see if there is a different angle you can discuss – there usually is!

Not only does discussing different angles give you more blog posts/articles, it also:

  • gives you the opportunity to share more of your expertise in a niche subject
  • lets people read about different aspects and therefore be more informed
  • gives people who may use your article (e.g. website owners and other bloggers) more choice about what angle of the topic to use and that increases the chances or your article being read
  • demonstrates your knowledge and that you have more than one dimension
  • enables you to link between posts more easily

Use your words wisely, and your topics thoroughly!

Ask before sharing emails

We all hate spam. Most of us get too many emails to deal with them all properly. We don’t have time to read every enewsletter, not even time to read all the good ones, so we can’t subscribe to them all and stay sane!

So why then do some business people think it’s ok to subscribe to you their lists without your permission?

Just because I am your friend or I have done some work for you does not mean I want to read your newsletter – rather, I may want to but I probably don’t have the time to read something I haven’t carefully selected.

A number of people have added me to their lists because they know me, or because I wrote for them or because I gave them a quote to write for them! None of these behaviours is acceptable to me – sure send me a copy and invite me to subscribe, but don’t just subscribe me.

A couple of specific recent examples that will hopefully help you avoid annoying potential (or actual) clients…

  • I attempted to watch an online seminar. I gave my email address purely for access to the seminar (there was no disclaimer I was signing to a newsletter) and she started sending me 3 or 4 emails a week. What’s worse is the seminar never worked so I have no reason to read even one of those emails
  • I responded to a newsletter which mentioned a particular offer; I asked for a few details so I could decide if I was interested. Next thing, I am getting emails from two totally unrelated people. What’s worse, both those people are including me in a cc field with a whole group of people! So not only am I getting unwanted emails from people I never gave my email to in the first place, they are sharing my email with other people! Not the way to impress me into using their services I assure you
  • someone who contacted me two years ago, and who has not maintained a relationship with me, recently added a new arm to her business and has subscribed me to that new arm’s newsletter. I have never contacted her or shown an interest in her services, so why can she assume I want her newsletter?
  • So to avoid annoying people and therefore potentially loosing clients and getting bad word of mouth, remember:

    • don’t subscribe people to your newsletter. EVER. Send a single copy and invite them, but do not subscribe them without their knowledge & permission
    • if sending a group email, use the bcc field not the cc field unless it a discussion and all parties are aware of each other. Especially as emails can be forwarded so who knows where my email address would end up…
    • don’t give someone else’s email address to others for their newsletter. It’s one thing to give it as a referral (e.g. “Email Tash on … as she’s a great writer”) but otherwise you should protect the emails you have been entrusted with. If in doubt, ask if it’s ok to pass on someone’s details

    Accountable communications

    What are accountable communications?

    It simply means giving a message that is justified and that you are willing to stand by.

    For many jaded consumers, the marketing message in many ads and business materials is not trusted because there have been too many hyped up, false promises in the past. And people understand that marketing companies use many techniques to support their message .

    To make sure your message is seen as trustworthy and is accountable

    • avoid exaggerations (the occasional obvious one may work)
    • justify any claims
    • only give it in appropriate ways (i.e. don’t spam or annoy people)
    • check the details
    • use an appropriate look – colours, layouts, font sizes and so on all influence how your message is perceived. For example, the long letter with yellow highlights style of webpage doesn’t build trust in Australians as much as it appears to in the USA

    What messages have you seen that didn’t come across as accountable or reliable?

    Over using keywords in articles

    Yesterday, I wrote about using keywords in articles to help search engines find your articles. I also explained that using to many keywords makes the article unreadable for humans and may get search engines penalising you/your site.

    The following are examples of the over use of keywords to remind us that the focus of promotional articles should be on giving information rather than making a sale or increasing website traffic (as much as we love those results!)

    example 1 – a title for an article: 

    Tractor Parts,Hydraulic Coupling,Hydraulic Pumps,Lubricating Oil Pump,Tractor Spare Parts,Tractorul UTB Spares 

    Not a very interesting title is it?

    example 2 – content of an article:

    Just search on your computer with Keywords like Packers and Movers in Ahmedabad Packers Movers Ahmedabad, Relocation service provider in Ahmedabad, etc. Many service provider of that particular state will appear on your computer screen. Collect information from all the relocation Ahmedabad companies and hire the best one. You can also do the same work to find out service provider of other state and city.

    There is nothing informative or interesting in that snippet, and its a lttle insulting as someone has probably already searched those keywords to have found the article in the first place!

    example 3 – a bio box:

    crib bedding, crib bedding sets

    Apart from not doing much to promote their business, this bio box is boring and doesn’t develop trust or credibility.


    Of course, the use of keywords (and avoiding over use of them) applies to blog posts, newsletters, website content and so on just as much as to promotional articles.

    Keywords in promotional articles

    On Sunday, I presented a workshop on using promotional articles as a business tool and discussed the use of keywords in such articles.

    Keywords are words that a search engine will use to provide search results (e.g. if you type in “promotional articles”, they are the keywords and a search engine will find the sites most relevant for those words.) They are very useful in building up the popularity of your site with search engines.

    So it is a good idea to include your keywords in your promotional articles so search engines will find your articles online and increase your exposure. In terms of attracting search engines, putting keywords into the title is also effective.

    In reality, you probably use keywords in your articles without really trying – it isn’t easy to write an article about business books without writing business or books for example.

    However, it is important to not use your keywords too many times in one article as search engines can actually penalise you for doing so. The easiest way to judge how many times is right is to read it out loud – if it sounds ok and appeals to a human, you probably haven’t over used the keywords.

    I will share some examples tomorrow on overuse of keywords, but thanks to Suzie of Suz’s Space asking a question in my  workshop, let me explain that it is repetition of one or two words that is the potential problem – using a lot of different keywords in a suitable context is not a search engine risk.

    For example, writing an article about a style of writing which includes a list of authors does have a lot of keywords (each name for instance) but is not over using the keywords (such as books and authors) for Suzie’s site.

    Recharge your business with promotional articles

    I will be presenting the above topic at the Business Mums Conference on 20/21 June in Melbourne. I will be covering ways to help people get the most value out of the promotional articles they write (or pay to get written) as I believe it is a valuable, low cost way to promote any business.

    What is a promotional article?

    Any useful article can be used as a promotional article, although they tend to be around 300-600 words long. At the end of the article, you include an information section (called a bio box or resource box) about yourself and/or your business.

    To be a good promotion for your business, it is best to use topics that build your credibility in your industry. For example, if you are a hairdresser you could use articles about choosing shampoos, the best types of hair accessories and hair care tips, but if you sell children’s party accessories, you would be better using articles about how to plan a birthday party, dealing with invitation lists and party game suggestions.

    Note that a promotional article is not an ad. An article about the services you offer or how you are better than a competitor is not a promotional article – it is an ad. The aim of your article is to provide information, and/or entertainment, to readers.

    ** If you are going to the conference, please come and chat to me – I’ll be there all weekend as I know from experience that is a positive, information pack weekend that will benefit my business.

    If you havent bought tickets yet, Save Time Online is offering an advertising bonus if you mention them when booking.